Northern Ireland news

Fundraiser for Co Down man struck by flesh-eating disease

Co Down man Ben Whiteside, pictured with his girlfriend Anneka Shally and medical staff in Bangkok, Thailand, after being afflicted by a rare flesh-eating disease.
John Monaghan

A FUNDRAISER will be held next week for a Co Down man struck by a rare flesh-eating disease while on holiday in Asia.

The cost of emergency treatment for Ben Whiteside (25), from Carryduff, is still to be paid off after he contracted necrotising fasciitis.

He was told that, if left untreated, the bacteria could claim his life in a matter of days.

A total of £24,500 has already been raised, but friends are still some distance off a £30,000 target and have only covered around half the total medical bills.

Mr Whiteside had spent a month in China and moved on to Laos in November with his girlfriend, Anneka Shally (24), when he noticed a scratch on his leg had transformed into a swollen, infected wound in the space of just a few days.

The hospital in Laos was not equipped to deal with the diagnosis, so the Co Down man was immediately airlifted to Bangkok where he underwent surgery, in an attempt to not only save his leg but his life.

The Co Down man returned home before Christmas and had several skin graft operations carried out in the Ulster Hospital.

Miss Shally said: "As this was a life or death situation, not airlifting Ben to Bangkok to have the treatment due to the expense was simply out of the question.

"The treatment has so far all been paid for on credit, so I have started this campaign in the hopes of relieving Ben and his family from some of the financial burden that this situation has inflicted on them, and to avoid the already significant cost skyrocketing more due to interest rates."

In a post on GoFundMe, she thanked all those who had donated so far.

Miss Shally said: "In total, we have now raised enough to cover over 50% of the medical bill through a combination of GoFundMe, private donations and fundraising events.

"This is a really amazing feat which has eased the financial aspect of this situation a great deal. As well as boosting all round morale."

She added: "Ben has since been improving day by day. We have all been really impressed with the speed at which he has regained mobility, he is flying around on his crutches now."

A fundraising event at the Ivanhoe Hotel in Carryduff on Friday February 12 will feature live music from Rab McCullough and friends, with games, dancers and DJs playing throughout the night.

Tickets cost £10 and can be purchased on the night.

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